It won’t be long before your teen is earning his own income and living independently—let’s actually label it interdependently, as emotionally healthy adults rely on others in one way or another, albeit for friendship, paid help with house cleaning or lawn care, or general advice and support. This, of course, begs the question: how well prepared for adulthood are our teens who are blind or visually impaired? Sure, there are the important transition services at school that increase preparedness, but what more can be in play at home to ensure your teen is equipped for the upcoming transition to an interdependent adulthood? (Glad you asked!)
Equipping Your Teen
Let’s examine what can be undertaken now that empowers your teen for adulthood.
- Let your teen know you love him for who he is, no matter his range of attributes, abilities, or disabilities. You give your child the understanding and foundation that he is valuable and lovable. This will be the backbone of his self-confidence (which is quite necessary when leaping into adulthood.)
- Continue to identify your teen’s preferences, interests, skills, and limitations. You will help your child identify these attributes. He will benefit from the self-awareness as he makes career-related decisions.
- Maintain high expectations of your child. Your teen must be expected to utilize at home the skills learned at school (independent living skills and blindness-specific training such as orientation and mobility, braille, access technology, calendar use, study skills, etc.) in order to master them for use in adulthood. In fact, your child’s independent community travel is a predictor of employment success; see "Orientation and Mobility Skills and Outcome Expectations as Predictors of Employment for Young Adults with Visual Impairments."
- Encourage your teen to participate in community activities, sports, or interest groups. Your child will benefit from developing and practicing social skills within a variety of contexts; see "Social Skills for Youths with Visual Impairments: A Meta-Analysis."
- Ensure your teen is participating in family chores. He will develop responsibility and the concept of contributing to a group; see "Three Things Parents Should Know About Career Education."
- Urge your child to begin a work experience, whether a part-time job, a regular work opportunity within the school, or a volunteer experience. Your teen will learn transferable, "soft" career skills and valuable money management skills.
- Encourage your teen to learn from a mentor who is blind or visually impaired and working in a career field of interest. She should be inspired to work; receive positive, realistic encouragement and feedback; and obtain answers to her questions about working as a person with a visual impairment.
- Consider utilizing a summer camp for teens who are blind or visually impaired. Your child will not only learn blindness-specific skills and get to know others with visual impairments but will also have an opportunity to practice independent living skills and social skills away from home. To learn more see, "Summer Programs for Teens with Visual Impairments."
A Valuable Resource
FamilyConnect recently updated the Teen Transition to Independence section to include a set of articles for each of the following transitions:
I bring this to your attention to further assist you as you empower your teen for a healthy, interdependent adulthood.